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Honeywell develops new broadband satcom hardware

 - June 20, 2013, 2:45 AM

Honeywell has entered the detailed design phase of the satellite communications (satcom) system hardware it is developing for Inmarsat’s new Global Xpress Ka-band satellite network. The company aims to secure Inmarsat network access approval for the satcom system in 2014.

The Global Xpress network is based on three new-generation Inmarsat-5 (Boeing 702HP) satellites, each carrying 89 Ka-band beams and operating in geosynchronous orbit with flexible global coverage. The first satellite is scheduled for launch this year over Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Africa; the plan is to deploy the full constellation by 2014.

The broadband satcom service that Global Xpress will provide—known as GX Aviation for aircraft applications—represents the first use of the high frequency Ka-band by a commercial operator to deliver a global satellite service, according to Inmarsat. It will provide broadband speeds of up to 50 Mbps to aircraft, maritime and other terminals, besting the 432 kbps possible from Inmarsat’s SwiftBroadband service.

“We are very excited about what it is going to bring to the back of the aircraft from a passenger perspective, but also to the front of the aircraft from an operational perspective,” said Carl Esposito, Honeywell Aerospace vice president of marketing and product management. “We’re able to do a lot of things we are not able to do today because of slow speed and limited bandwidth.”

Under the terms of an agreement announced in April 2012, Honeywell (Chalet B67) will provide the onboard hardware that enables users to connect to the GX Aviation network. Honeywell estimates the exclusive agreement will produce $2.8 billion in sales of hardware, customer service and maintenance over the next two decades.

Last October, Honeywell and Inmarsat announced a separate five-year agreement that designates Honeywell as the exclusive wireless airtime reseller for GX connectivity services and hardware for business jet customers.

Passengers will be able to use the service to connect to smart phones, tablet computers, laptop computers or other Wi-Fi-enabled devices. Services envisioned for the flight deck include crew data services, maintenance information sharing, health monitoring and equipment trends, navigation data base updates, weather updates and flight-following applications, Esposito said.

Inmarsat previewed GX Aviation system components for the first time at the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg, Germany, in April. Also that month, Honeywell and Boeing signed a technical services agreement to develop inflight wireless connectivity systems on Boeing platforms including the 787 Dreamliner, 777, 737NG and 747-8. The agreement allows Boeing and Honeywell to jointly research, test and develop hardware, software and potential services using the GX Aviation service, with the goal of equipping aircraft in 2015.

“We are having extensive conversations with airlines and OEM customers,” Esposito said. “There’s a lot of interest in this connectivity.”